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Game draws fans from far and wide

Festival atmosphere for football friendly

Posted: 05/9/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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  • Canadian Women's Soccer Team group photo before the start of their friendly against Team USA at Investors Group Field May 8, 2014.

    Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press

    Canadian Women's Soccer Team group photo before the start of their friendly against Team USA at Investors Group Field May 8, 2014.

  • Young soccer fan Jadyn Friesen cheers on Team Canada at their friendly match against Team USA at Investors Group Field.

    Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press

    Young soccer fan Jadyn Friesen cheers on Team Canada at their friendly match against Team USA at Investors Group Field.

  • Young Manitoba provincial team soccer players start cheering for their favourite team on the steps of the stadium Thursday just before Canada takes on Team USA at the women's international soccer match at Investors Group Field.

    Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press

    Young Manitoba provincial team soccer players start cheering for their favourite team on the steps of the stadium Thursday just before Canada takes on Team USA at the women's international soccer match at Investors Group Field.

  • Rachel Leiphon from Grand Forks patriotically holds up her American flags before start of the Canada v USA Women's international soccer match Thursday in Winnipeg.

    Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press

    Rachel Leiphon from Grand Forks patriotically holds up her American flags before start of the Canada v USA Women's international soccer match Thursday in Winnipeg.

  • Young soccer players from Yorkton, Sask. start cheering for their favourite team on the steps of the Investors Group Field stadium Thursday before the   Canada v USA women's soccer friendly.  From right, Sarah Nelson, Sara Becker, Maddi Stevenson and Hannah Adam.

    Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press

    Young soccer players from Yorkton, Sask. start cheering for their favourite team on the steps of the Investors Group Field stadium Thursday before the Canada v USA women's soccer friendly. From right, Sarah Nelson, Sara Becker, Maddi Stevenson and Hannah Adam.

  • Team Canada midfielder Desiree Scott warms up before the Canada vs USA soccer friendly in Winnipeg Thursday.

    Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press

    Team Canada midfielder Desiree Scott warms up before the Canada vs USA soccer friendly in Winnipeg Thursday.

  • USA midfielder Carli Lloyd challenges Canada midfielder Diana Matheson during the first half at of the international friendly at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg.

    Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press

    USA midfielder Carli Lloyd challenges Canada midfielder Diana Matheson during the first half at of the international friendly at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg.

  • Canada's Rebecca Quinn (#3) and USA's Sydney Leroux (#2) collide while scrambling for the ball during the first half of Thursday's game at Investors Group Field.

    Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press

    Canada's Rebecca Quinn (#3) and USA's Sydney Leroux (#2) collide while scrambling for the ball during the first half of Thursday's game at Investors Group Field.

  • Canada's Rebecca Quinn (#3) and USA Abby Wambach, (#20) headbutt the ball during the first half  of the Canada vs USA women's international soccer match Thursday.

    Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press

    Canada's Rebecca Quinn (#3) and USA Abby Wambach, (#20) headbutt the ball during the first half of the Canada vs USA women's international soccer match Thursday.

  • Canada midfielder Desiree Scott controls the ball during the Canada Women's soccer match against Team USA at Investors Group Field.

    Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press

    Canada midfielder Desiree Scott controls the ball during the Canada Women's soccer match against Team USA at Investors Group Field.

  • Canada forward Josée Bélanger, right, celebrates defender Kadeisha Buchanan's goal against USA goalie Hope Solo that put Canada up 1-0 in the first half.

    Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press

    Canada forward Josée Bélanger, right, celebrates defender Kadeisha Buchanan's goal against USA goalie Hope Solo that put Canada up 1-0 in the first half.

  • Canada's defender Kadeisha Buchanan (#20) celebrates her goal with forward Jonelle Filigno (16) and her team as USA's midfielder Heather O'Reilly (9) looks on during first the friendly match in Winnipeg.

    John Woods / The Canadian Press

    Canada's defender Kadeisha Buchanan (#20) celebrates her goal with forward Jonelle Filigno (16) and her team as USA's midfielder Heather O'Reilly (9) looks on during first the friendly match in Winnipeg.

  • Canada midfielder Sophie Schmidt (13) joins other Canada teammates who piled on Kadeisha Buchanan after the defender's goal brought Canada ahead 1-0 in the first half.

    Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press

    Canada midfielder Sophie Schmidt (13) joins other Canada teammates who piled on Kadeisha Buchanan after the defender's goal brought Canada ahead 1-0 in the first half.

  • Canada midfielder Desiree Scott (11), hugs defender Kadeisha Buchanan (20) after Buchanan's goal as USA goalie Hope Solo looks on.

    Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press

    Canada midfielder Desiree Scott (11), hugs defender Kadeisha Buchanan (20) after Buchanan's goal as USA goalie Hope Solo looks on.

  • Kadeisha Buchanan (#20), left, celebrates her goal with Canada teammates during the first half of Thursday's soccer game against Team USA.

    Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press

    Kadeisha Buchanan (#20), left, celebrates her goal with Canada teammates during the first half of Thursday's soccer game against Team USA.

  • Young Team Canada fans cheer during Canada women's soccer against Team USA at Investors Group Field.

    Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press

    Young Team Canada fans cheer during Canada women's soccer against Team USA at Investors Group Field.

  • Desiree Scott's family watches the Winnipeg midfielder play for Team Canada for the first time. From left, brother Nick Scott, sister Charlie, brother Christopher Hawkins and mom Charlene Gusberti.

    Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press

    Desiree Scott's family watches the Winnipeg midfielder play for Team Canada for the first time. From left, brother Nick Scott, sister Charlie, brother Christopher Hawkins and mom Charlene Gusberti.

  • Canada's Desiree Scott is all smiles as she leaves the field after Canada's 1-1 draw with Team USA at Investors Group Field.

    Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press

    Canada's Desiree Scott is all smiles as she leaves the field after Canada's 1-1 draw with Team USA at Investors Group Field.

  • Canada's Kadeisha Buchanan waves and smiles to the crowd as she leaves the field after scoring Canada's lone goal against the U.S. in the women's international soccer match at Investors Group Field Thursday evening. The teams tied 1-1.

    Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press

    Canada's Kadeisha Buchanan waves and smiles to the crowd as she leaves the field after scoring Canada's lone goal against the U.S. in the women's international soccer match at Investors Group Field Thursday evening. The teams tied 1-1.

  • Team Canada's Sophie Schmidt signs autographs after the 1-1 game against USA at Investors Group Field Thursday.

    Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press

    Team Canada's Sophie Schmidt signs autographs after the 1-1 game against USA at Investors Group Field Thursday.

  • Canada forward Christine Sinclair point to fans in crowd with goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc at the end of their match against USA at Investors Group Field.

    Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press

    Canada forward Christine Sinclair point to fans in crowd with goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc at the end of their match against USA at Investors Group Field.

  • After the match fans show off their home made Team Canada signs with the faces of the players.

    Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press

    After the match fans show off their home made Team Canada signs with the faces of the players.

Young fans cheer for Team Canada as they play Team USA at Investors Group Field on Thursday. A crowd of more than 28,000 attended the game, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

MELISSA TAIT / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Young fans cheer for Team Canada as they play Team USA at Investors Group Field on Thursday. A crowd of more than 28,000 attended the game, which ended in a 1-1 draw. Photo Store

A crowd of more than 28,000 walked, biked, bused, drove and even rode scooters and skateboards to see Canada's national women's soccer team take on the U.S. Thursday night at Investors Group Field.

Billed as a "friendly," soccer-speak for an exhibition game, it had all the feel of an Olympic showdown between the two rival teams. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.

"If you aren't here, I don't know where else you'd be. This is fantastic for Manitoba Soccer and fantastic for our country also," said Héctor Vergara, the Manitoba Soccer Association's executive director. He is formerly an international soccer official who has worked matches around the world.

Vergara was outside the stadium at 5:30 p.m. handing out Team Canada under-eye "glare strips."

Outside the field, it was a festival atmosphere as, despite high winds, kids could test their kick speed at the Winnipeg Youth Soccer Association net and radar fun station, pick up plastic Team Canada fan-shaped noisemakers and decorate them with a marker and enter several draws for Team Canada merchandise.

"I thinks it's going to be aggressive and exciting," Dara Nfon, 12, who was at the game with her sister, Ashley, and parents Charles and Vicky, before the match. Ashley plays soccer for Winnipeg South End United, while Dara plays for Corydon Community Centre.

'I've never seen anything like this here'

Kathy Nelson, a mom and soccer coach from Yorkton, Sask., brought her daughter Sarah, 11, and her Yorkton United teammates Hannah Adam, Maddi Stevenson and Sara Becker.

"My husband stayed home to look after our other four children so we could do this," Nelson said. "Desiree Scott spoke at our soccer banquet last month, and she was so inspiring."

Scott, a Winnipeg native and former University of Manitoba striker, started at midfield for Team Canada on Thursday night.

"I never thought I'd get to see Desiree Scott play in person. This is the best," Sara, 11, said.

Jayden, nine, and his sister, Madison, 11, and their mom, Irene, were ready to see some great action.

"I think it's going to be a tough battle," he said.

Also here from Saskatchewan were Kaila Gelsinger, 20, and Alix Donnelly, 21, who play for a coed team in Regina called Not Our Fault.

"Nothing like this was coming to Regina, so we had to be here," said Gelsinger, wearing a Sinclair replica jersey. "I wanted to see my idol, Christine Sinclair, play. She's just so aggressive and she can shoot. Pure talent."

Friends Gerard Peters and Werner Roller said they didn't want to miss the spectacle.

"I've been in Canada for 20 years and I've never seen anything like this here. I think it's the new stadium. It's attracting more big events," said Peters, who plays locally for a men's over-40 team.

The crowd was a generational and cultural mosaic, and the game attracted hard-core and casual soccer fans.

"After seeing the women play in the Olympics, you have to come out and support your team and hometown girl," said Wendy Pinchbeck, who came to the game with Wade Gibson, a longtime player in the local men's league and former member of the Winnipeg Fury, the long-defunct Canadian Soccer League team.

Diane and Jim Mayer brought their teenage granddaughter, Kennedy, also a soccer player, and a friend to the game.

"I just thought it would be a great experience for us and for her to see these girls (Team Canada) because it's world-class soccer," Diane Mayer said.

Vergara served for 19 years as an official on FIFA's list, being called upon to work 11 FIFA competitions, including three FIFA World Cups. He worked 14 FIFA World Cup games, six Gold Cups, Olympic games and nearly 150 international matches involving clubs and national teams.

"You can't get any better than this, watching two of the best women's soccer teams in the world and hopefully what will be the final of the 2015 Women's World Cup (being hosted by Canada)," Vergara said.

"We just want people to play the game, so I hope this helps motivate all the young kids to play the game, seeing someone local like Desiree Scott.

"When I was participating in (international) games for many, many years, for those players walking out into a stadium with over 25,000 people in the stands, hearing that anthem, is one of the proudest days an athlete can have."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 9, 2014 A3

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